DISCUSSION The DNA strands of 21st Century leadership

by Luke Robinson _______1st August 2013

by: Hanne Marie Mysen

Despite the thousands of books written on it and the centralized efforts in organizations to foster the necessary skills of leadership through costly seminars and development programmes, we are still in scarcity of ‘leaders’. Now, the question is if this deficit is imagined, if we are searching for the wrong qualities or are the right people just being overlooked?

For as long as anyone alive can remember anyways, leadership has been the forte of a select few. We are led to believe that is in our human nature to compete to the top reach the position of alpha-male. However, new research indicates that the qualities people have believed to prove valuable in leadership in the past are far too archaic in the present context. Science shows rather that generosity, humility, passion, adaptability and communication are some of the highest ranked attributes people look to in a leader[1]. The top-down hierarchical power structure that has dominated is sure to have reached its limits.

What seems to impede a proactive conversation about leadership is the confusion about a manager or a bureaucrat and a leader. The qualities of a leader is not tried through ones engagement with the authority you have, but by what you do to accomplish something big with a little dab of power. If given this outset you can mobilize other and accomplish things with no real authority, you are a leader. If you need to be in charge of others and measure your level of leadership through how you discipline people that are unwilling to do your bidding, you are merely a manager. In order to bring out the concealed leadership talent that resides in every organization one must cultivate individuals at every level that understand how to maximize their own ratio of “accomplishment over authority” [2].

A recent publication from Harvard Business Review used the founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales as a case in point. Wales made Time’s top 100 list of Most Influential People in the World through is efforts in establishing the world’s largest compendium of knowledge. Yet what is extraordinary is that none of the thousands of individuals who have contributed to the database report back to him as you would expect from such an acclaimed ‘leader’. Instead Wales biggest success lies in his accomplishment to inspire and energize an incredible amount of effort around this platform without having much power at all [3]

More research is needed to find out what skills and attributes that can attract human efforts and amplify accomplishments. But what can be sure is that the leaders of tomorrow are individuals who people follow because they want to, not because they have to.

[1] http://compassblogs.org/blog/2013/05/13/the-top-ten-qualities-of-scientist-communicator-leaders/

[2] http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2013/05/how_to_lead_when_youre_not_in.html

[3] Ibid.